Aldershot Town lost their 100% home record on Saturday as they were held to a goalless draw by Chester. The Shots dropped to 6th in the table, but they did manage to maintain a four-game unbeaten run. The Shots now face two away games in four days, starting with Tuesday evening’s trip to face Boreham Wood. BBC Surrey’s Gavin Denison previews the action.
After the dramatic and exhilarating games against Dover Athletic and Tranmere Rovers, it was back to earth with a bump on a grey, wet afternoon at the EBB Stadium. Gary Waddock’s side never got going in a first half where Chester had the better of the play. They hit the post in the 37th minute through Ryan Lloyd’s 25-yard drive, whilst Elliott Durrell and Kane Richards shot wide when in good positions. The Shots improved after the break, with Scott Rendell forcing a close-range save from visiting goalkeeper Liam Roberts thirty seconds after half-time. Matt McClure, Anthony Straker and Josh Wakefield failed to hit the target from decent positions (the latter two in stoppage time), whilst Jake Cole had just the one, comfortable save to make from substitute Jordan Chappell.
However, there were certainly positives to take from the game. It was the club’s fourth clean sheet of the season and the thirteen points from a possible fifteen at home in this campaign so far is above what the majority of fans would have predicted. It’ll be interesting to see if the side can reproduce that sort of form on the road, especially following the outstanding first away win of 2016-17 at Dover Athletic on Bank Holiday Monday. Not many Aldershot Town fans would have predicted that they’d have had the best defensive record after nine games either. However, five of the seven goals have been conceded in the first half, with three of them after the 37th minute and two in the opening eight minutes.
Boreham Wood was formed in 1948 by the amalgamation of two local sides, Boreham Rovers and Royal Retournez, winning promotion to the Isthmian League for the first time in 1974. In 2010, the Wood won promotion to Conference South via the Ryman League Premier Division Play-Offs. After four mid-table finishes, they made the play-offs for the first time in 2014-15 having finished second. After a 4-2 aggregate semi-final win over Havant & Waterlooville, the Hertfordshire side beat Whitehawk 2-1 after extra-time, winning promotion to the top-flight of non-league football for the first time in the club’s history. They then won their last three games of last season to finish 19th, two points from the drop zone.
The Hertfordshire side has made a more solid start to this campaign, with thirteen points from nine games leaving them thirteenth in the early National League table. However, nine of those points have come on the road, with just one win so far at Meadow Park. It was an impressive one, though, as they beat Forest Green Rovers 1-0 on the opening day. Since then, however, they’ve managed just one point in three home games. No team has scored fewer than Boreham Wood’s two home goals. Last season, they managed the seventh-best defensive record in the division, and they’ve continued that miserliness this season. Like their opponents on Tuesday, they’ve conceded just seven league goals so far in 2016-17.
Despite this improvement, Chairman Danny Hunter is looking to increase the club’s home attendances. He told the club’s official website: “We’ve obviously had a really big change around this summer in regards to our playing personnel. That turnaround was much needed after such a well-documented struggle throughout last season… That said, we are going to need a lot more of our locals to realise just what’s on their doorstep and what they’re missing. The strides we’ve made at Meadow Park in recent years is, in many ways, quite remarkable… We are a well-run club, we are an ambitious club, we have built a good structure and we’ve built a decent side… there’s lots of reasons to be positive.”
Gary Waddock made one change to his side on Saturday, with Nick Arnold preferred to Anthony Straker at left back. With four starts in that position this season for Arnold and five for Straker, the Aldershot Town boss looks set to rotate them throughout the campaign depending on form and the opposition. With three games in a week, however, it would be surprising if there weren’t a few more changes to the starting eleven in midweek. Josh Wakefield, who came off the bench at half-time for a struggling Liam Bellamy, may return to the first eleven, whilst Iffy Allen impressed on the left wing in a briefer substitute appearance.
Jack Saville has missed the last four games with a hamstring injury, but is back in training and could be back for this week’s pair of away fixtures, whilst Jim Kellermann has been absent for the last two games with an ankle problem. Last season’s top scorer Charlie Walker is also back in training after damaging his ankle ligaments against MK Dons on 23 July, and could feature against the team where he spent three months on loan at the end of the 2014-15 season.
Luke Garrard, who took over as Boreham Wood manager in October 2015, has overseen a fairly dramatic squad overhaul over the summer with plenty of movement in and out of the club. He did lose a number of key players, including Club Captain Callum Reynolds, who joined the Shots having made over 150 league appearances since initially joining the Hertfordshire side in March 2012. Fellow centre-back Scott Doe and midfielder Luke Howell returned to Dagenham & Redbridge, first choice goalkeeper James Russell left to join St Albans City (as did defender Josh Hill and forward Junior Morias) and midfielder Billy Clifford moved into the Football League with Crawley Town. Clovis Kamdjo and Delano Sam-Yorke returned to Forest Green Rovers after the expiration of their long-term loan deals, whilst veteran striker Charlie MacDonald signed for Ryman League Division One South side Greenwich Borough. The six players who have re-signed on permanent terms are defenders Joe Devera, Danny Woodards, David Stephens and Ben Nunn, midfielder Conor Clifford and forward Ricky Shakes.
The Boreham Wood manager has strengthened his side with ten permanent signings and three long-term loanees. Garrard has an outstanding new central midfield pairing with ex-Braintree Town skipper Kenny Davis (nine goals in 2015-16) and Woking’s former Club Captain Mark Ricketts moving to Meadow Park. Both have been joined there by a former teammate – centre-back Matt Paine in Davis’ case, and the former Cards winger Bruno Andrade for the latter. Grant Smith (Bognor Regis Town) is the new first choice in goal, whilst Femi Ilesanmi (York City) has already made the left back spot his own. Adriano Moke (Wrexham) is another very strong midfield capture, whilst forwards Morgan Ferrier (Hemel Hempstead Town), ex-Shots trialist Angelo Balanta (Carlisle United) and Daniel Uchechi (Swedish side BSC Hurturkel) will look to provide extra goals. This cause should be helped by the return of last season’s seven goal top scorer Jamie Lucas, who will be on loan from Bristol Rovers until 28 January. Midfielder Aaron Kuhl (son of the Shots’ former promotion-winning Assistant Manager Martin Kuhl) is on loan from Reading until the same date, whilst winger Anthony Jeffrey has returned to the club on a season-long loan deal from Forest Green Rovers.
Garrad will be without David Stephens for the foreseeable future with a broken metatarsal, whilst Andrade is a few weeks away from playing after picking up a hamstring injury last month. Lucas also missed the trip to Barrow, but could feature against the Shots in midweek.
Tuesday evening sees the fifteenth meeting between these two sides with Aldershot Town winning ten, losing three and drawing just once. Their first meeting at National League level took place last October at Meadow Park, with Charlie Walker netting in the 10th minute of a 1-0 win. However, Boreham Wood got a modicum of revenge in April with a 2-1 win at the EBB Stadium. Ricky Shakes gave the visitors an early lead, with Jake Gallagher equalising two minutes later. Chris Barker was wrongly sent off for a supposed deliberate handball in the 76th minute and Conor Clifford stepped up to dispatch the winner from the penalty spot. Arguably the most famous fixture between these clubs was the 1999 Isthmian League Cup Final, which Aldershot Town won 2-1 after extra time, thanks to a Gary Abbott brace.
Aldershot Town’s record away to the Wood is equally impressive with four wins, a draw and just the one defeat, winning on their last four visits to this ground. As well as the above victory, a Roscoe D’Sane goal gave Aldershot Town a 1-0 victory in November 2002. The Shots also won 3-1 at Meadow Park in April 2002, with Adam Parker scoring twice and Lee Holsgrove getting the other, whilst a Grant Payne hat-trick helped Aldershot Town to a 5-2 win in December 1999. The only home win was a 2-0 victory in a Ryman League Division 1 game in October 1994, whilst the two teams drew 1-1 in November 1998.
If he plays on Tuesday evening, Liam Bellamy will be making his 100th National League appearance. Meanwhile if Anthony Straker features, he will be making his 237th Shots appearance, which will afford him fourth place in the club’s all-time appearance list.
Tuesday evening’s referee is Neil Hair from Cambridgeshire, who took charge of the Shots’ 1-0 home win against Maidstone United last month. So far this season he’s officiated in six National League fixtures, showing seventeen yellow cards and no red cards.
BBC Surrey’s Gavin Denison and Rob Worrall of the Aldershot Town media team will be covering the game on Tuesday evening. Tune in to the BBC Sport website from 7.35pm for full match commentary.
You can also contact us throughout the evening via Twitter. Tweet your predictions and thoughts on the game to @bbcsurreysport and @GavinDenison